Nepal is divided into 7 provinces, which are numbered from East to West. In 2018 a pilot project with 16 schools is being conducted in the remote rural district of Bajhang, in Province 7 in the far Western part of Nepal.
At the end of 2017, HEAR Nepal dispatched three teams, with three people each, to Bajhang to carry out a baseline survey of all 72 secondary level government schools in the district. Due to the large distances and bad road conditions, this was done on motorcycle and on foot. Having received the necessary permission to launch the project, both teachers and students were surveyed as was done last year. An important part of the survey work consisted of identifying which other organizations, if any, are active in the field of health in the area, so as to avoid any duplication and to initiate any cooperation that might be possible.
In April and May two 5-day trainings were conducted with a total of 16 school health clubs (a total of 96 students) in the same way as in 2017. The health clubs are currently teaching their fellow students weekly about health issues, supervised by staff from HEAR Nepal. Later in the year the guardians of all students will participate in two-day workshops, one for each of the 16 school.
In 2018 HEAR Nepal will also begin to conduct annual workshops specifically for faith-based traditional healers or shamans. Mostly due to a lack of medical facilities, it is very common for the people of Bajhang to resort to the services of local shamans and faith-based traditional healers. However, this treatment often does not result in any health improvements. It is not uncommon for a traditional healer to treat a child who has diarrhea and is dehydrated with shamanic methods, only to see the child slowly die. This workshop provides the traditional healers with additional healing tools from Western medicine. Their knowledge about the cause and prevention of common illnesses can slowly get them to include this as a part of their healing repertoire. Using the example above of a dehydrated child with diarrhea, they can learn to administer oral rehydration salts to save the child’s life. They will also be asked to refer patients who after a few days show no signs of improvement to a health post or clinic.
In the opinion of HEAR Nepal, changing the attitudes of traditional healers and shamans can also become an important vehicle for changing views about menstruation and chhaupadi (see popup) in society. If they would state that chhaupadi is not spiritually ordained and that menstrual blood is something natural and not sinful, this would have a great impact on how the communities deal with menstruation. It would go a long way to ensure that school girls do not have to skip school a week a month to dwell in a cage-like structure, eating only rice and salt while on their period.